Social Apps Are Now a Commodity

Snapchat's redesign shows how communication services are becoming indistinguishable.

I am very old. As in, my age begins with a four, a profoundly uncool number for an age to start with. Which is to say, too old to use Snapchat, the image-messaging social-network app. Founded in 2011, it’s most popular among young people, who spurned Facebook and even Instagram for it. Why? For one part, it’s because we olds… read more

Network Neutrality Can’t Fix the Internet

The FCC is poised to dismantle common carriage for broadband and wireless providers. That’s bad, but the internet itself is worse.

In a new video advocating for network neutrality—a name for regulating internet providers like public utilities—the American Civil Liberties Union declares that “giant internet companies shouldn’t have the power to mess with what we read, watch, and explore online.” The ACLU is referring to broadband and wireless carriers like Comcast and AT&T, who would have the power to throttle, charge… read more

How Driverless Cars Will Change the Feel of Cities

Autonomous vehicles promise safety and efficiency. But nobody knows what it will be like to live with them.

It’s 6 p.m. in Tempe, Arizona and pitch-black outside. I’m standing in the middle of a five-lane thoroughfare, among a group of people too numerous for the narrow median. We got trapped here after a brigade of left-turning cars preempted our passage—that’s a thing that happens in cities like this one, designed for automobiles over pedestrians. An SUV pulls up… read more

Even Trump Is Vulnerable to Internet Chaos

In the same day, the president of the United States and many local journalists both suffered the precariousness of life online.

Yesterday evening, two different faces of internet power and caprice grimaced at the public. First, Joe Ricketts, the billionaire CEO of the local-news publications DNAinfo and Gothamist shut down their websites. The decision came less than a week after writers at the publications had voted to organize. The DNAinfo and Gothamistwebsites, along with those of other local affiliates like DCist,… read more

Big Candy Bars Have No Place on Halloween

They ruin the “fun” of the fun-size treat.

Full-size candy bars are the holy grail of Halloween. For many trick-or-treaters, they are seen as the ultimate bounty—a proper, grown-up Snickers or Milky Way with which to mock less-fortunate peers before engorgement. For those giving out the candy, they offer a not-so-subtle way to outdo the neighbors—Halloween as potlatch. The house with the full-size bars is the best house… read more

Netflix’s ‘Skip Intro’ Button Makes TV Ever More Like an App

The option to bypass title sequences seems convenient, but it also tightens the bond between viewer and screen.

When the commercial web was new, its acolytes were eager to show it off. The scientific-research and literary communities, where the web originated, envisioned it as a nonlinear platform for authorship and publishing. But the dot-coms and the advertisers and the interactive agencies saw the web as a new kind of billboard or video screen. To them, it was the… read more

Why Computers Should Be Hidden

A luxury bicycle computer forecasts a welcome future of humble, embedded systems.

The joy I used to feel when using computers has turned largely to anguish. These machines once provided a unique and compelling way to do things, from writing to shopping to communication to entertainment. But today, devices and services strive to replace every activity with computer use itself. Now I think about escaping the computer as much as using it.… read more

You Are Already Living Inside a Computer

Futurists predict a rapture of machines, but reality beat them to it by turning computing into a way of life.

Suddenly, everything is a computer. Phones, of course, and televisions. Also toasters and door locks, baby monitors and juicers, doorbells and gas grills. Even faucets. Even garden hoses. Even fidget spinners. Supposedly “smart” gadgets are everywhere, spreading the gospel of computation to everyday objects. It’s enough to make the mundane seem new—for a time anyway. But quickly, doubts arise. Nobody… read more

The Empire of Apple

The company’s new iPhone and retail “town centers” presage a future of Apple as global infrastructure—one that may already have arrived.

For two decades now, Apple has been fighting a battle between attention and disregard. In 1997, when Steve Jobs returned as interim CEO, the company was a struggling maker of personal computers with limited market share. Then came the iMac, a Mac computer people finally wanted to own again. Then the iPod, which transformed the company into a maker of… read more

The Banality of the Equifax Breach

With over half of the entire U.S. adult population potentially exposed, what’s left to do but shrug and sigh?

Consumer data breaches have become so frequent, the anger and worry once associated with them has turned to apathy. So when Equifax revealed late Thursday that a breach exposed personal data, including social-security numbers, for 143 million Americans, public shock was diluted by resignation. There are reasons for the increased prevalence and severity of these breaches. More data is being… read more